Kicking the butt on Kerala roads; Public transport vehicles go tobacco smoke-free

Image courtesy: facebook/KeralaStateRoadTransportCorporation

Talking of ‘firsts’, Kerala owns a long list! From being home to the ‘first’ ever democratically-elected Communist-ruled state, to the ‘first’ fully literate state in India, and hosting the ‘first’ ever information technology park in the country, it goes on.

As if adding yet another first to its list of firsts, God’s Own Country is all geared up to be the first state to make its transport systems smoke-free.

It was not long ago that Kerala became India’s first tobacco advertisement-free state. Following up on that initiative, the state hopes to be the first in the country to have its transport services free from tobacco smoke.

Image courtesy: facebook/KeralaStateRoadTransportCorporation
Image courtesy: facebook/KeralaStateRoadTransportCorporation

In case you didn’t know, almost all of Kerala’s population makes use of two modes of transport. One the regular road transport, and the other along the state’s waterways. State transport vehicles plying along roads and waterways have been asked to be strict with smokers.

With ensuring good public health as the goal, Kerala’s administrative circles are now working overtime to make effective the smoking ban on public transport vehicles.

'No Smoking' signage displated inside an autorickshaw
‘No Smoking’ signage displated inside an autorickshaw

The initiative has already taken off, and holding the many provisions prescribed in the Indian tobacco control law (COTPA), 2003, Transport Commissioner and Indian Police Service officer R Sreelekha have directed all deputy transport commissioners, regional transport officers and joint regional transport officers to go strong on the smoking ban.

The officials have been asked to take action against anyone smoking in public conveyances, bus depots and transport bus stands.

Years ago, the High Court in the state had taken the first step towards tobacco smoke-free Kerala. Ever since, smoking in public places have dropped, but the sale of cigarettes and beedis haven’t come down as expected.

The new initiative, in the meantime, is being seen as proactive, with officials being accorded added power to implement the ban. Officials including ticket conductors and ticket collectors have been authorised under COTPA to penalize smokers in public conveyances, and anyone not adhering to the ban could end up paying a fine of up to Rs 200.

The implementation of the directive would get more visual aid, with ‘No Smoking’ boards to be displayed inside public transport vehicles, as mandated by Section 4 of the Act. Inspections for vehicle registration and fitness certificate issuance will ensure that the said pictorial signages are exhibited in the vehicles.

Image courtesy: facebook/KeralaStateRoadTransportCorporation
Image courtesy: facebook/KeralaStateRoadTransportCorporation

That isn’t all. Official memo deems that no direct or indirect advertisements, sponsorship of tobacco products on public conveyances, as mandated by Section 5 of COTPA, would be allowed or encouraged.

The Kerala transport department will also make sure that the monthly checking report would record offences under COTPA – violations of Section 4 and 5. The transport commissioner has stated that the directions would be binding on all public conveyances, including autos, taxis, and private buses.

As per the directive, the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation would prohibit smoking and sale of tobacco products in all its buses, bus stations, canteens and offices.  Further, the State Water Transport Department in Kerala will also do the same. The Railways too have taken up this initiative to be implemented in their coaches and stations.

So, the next time you plan to visit Kerala, it would be best to leave your cigarette packets behind. Or, you might run into trouble as special squads who look for smokers could be anywhere around you!

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